Gift options, Christmas albums abound in advance of Christmas

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Michael W. Smith's, A New Hallelujah, was released in October and provides a moving worship experience for listeners. The CD has several new songs as well as familiar ones such as "Mighty to Save" and "I Surrender All."

Smith has joined up with conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity for Hannity's Freedom Concerts 2009. The CCM legend joins Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood and Oliver North for eight dates—including San Diego—in August 2009. While tickets aren't on sale yet, a few pre-sale gift packs, which include Sean Hannity autographed collectibles and concert tickets, are available through Premiere Collectibles at www.Hannity.com.

Digital Praise recently released their answer to Guitar Hero, an interactive guitar game that works much like the hot video game, but with Christian music instead of mainstream hits. Guitar Praise works on a computer, rather than on a TV, but reviews from gamer magazines say it's a good product, especially for Christians who want to avoid the objectionable stuff on Guitar Hero. Guitar Praise retails for about $100 and makes a great gift for the tech and music-savvy teen on your Christmas gift list.

Not to be outdone, Cloud 9 Games has added another expansion pack to their Heavenly Harmony Christian karaoke game, and is getting ready to release JAMpak, which offers a free downloadable expansion pack for Heavenly Harmony Gold that allows up to four singers, one guitarist and one drummer to sing and play along with top Christian artists. It's not Rock Band, but it's as close as the Christian market has right now.

It wouldn't be Christmas without holiday offerings from your favorite artists, and this year there are dozens of projects from everyone from Third Day and Casting Crowns to BarlowGirl and PureNRG. Even Aretha Franklin released a Christmas album, the first for the gospel R&B legend. Another unique album you have to check out: The Annie Moses Band's "This Glorious Christmas." The classically trained sibling quintet offers a holiday offering with incredible vocals, elaborate strings, and a jazzy piano twist. Really well done and different.

Michael W. Smith has joined up with conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity for Hannity's Freedom Concerts 2009. The CCM legend joins Billy Ray Cyrus, Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood and Oliver North for eight dates—including San Diego—in August 2009. While tickets aren't on sale yet, a few pre-sale gift packs, which include Sean Hannity autographed collectibles and concert tickets, are available through Premiere Collectibles at www.Hannity.com.

Christian actor, author, and speaker Stephen Baldwin met singer Miley Cyrus and her mom at the 2007 White House Easter egg hunt, and the charismatic bad boy offered the teen pop sensation a dare: he'd get a tattoo of Hannah Montana's signature "HM" initials if she'd have him appear on her TV show. She agreed. Baldwin unveiled the tat for Cyrus at a book signing in November. No word as of press date if the Hannah Montana star will hold up her end of the deal and have Baldwin cameo on the show.

Grammy-nominated rockers Red made Radio & Records history when the first radio single, "Fight Inside," from their upcoming sophomore release, Innocence & Instinct, debuted at No. 1 on the R&R Christian Rock chart. No band has ever had a single debut at No. 1 on that chart. The group just finished a tour with Puddle of Mud and is getting ready for the release of Innocence and Instinct in February.

Gospel singer Rev. Timothy Wright, who was severely injured in a July 4 auto accident that claimed the lives of his wife and grandson, is expected to go home from the hospital for the holidays. Wright has been at the Kessler Institute in New Jersey, where he has been receiving intensive rehabilitative therapy for a C4 spinal cord injury that left him on a respirator for months. He is now able to breathe on his own, has feeling in his arms, and is able to speak.

High school sophomore Robert Pierre's (coincidentally) sophomore album Identity doesn't come out until February, but through a partnership with Family Christian Stores more than 30,000 music fans have gotten an advance copy by making a $10 donation to The James Fund, an organization whose mission is to help widows and orphans both locally and worldwide. With the donation, shoppers receive a 10-song advance copy of Identity, and a plush stuffed Barnabus bear is given to an orphan in the consumer's community or in a developing country. Pierre is currently on the iShine Live tour with Luke Benward, The Rubyz, and Paige Armstrong. Visit www.RobertPierre.com for more information.

Southern gospel artists Brothers Forever had a scare last month when their tour bus leaked carbon monoxide. The group often tours with their family, and on this trip to North Carolina had nine band and family members on the bus. Gary Ballew's daughter, Alexis, woke feeling sick, and when his wife, Cyndi, passed out, everyone realized that the headaches and nausea everyone had been experiencing were connected to carbon monoxide. The group stopped for some fresh air, and when they arrived at their destination, Alexis and Cyndi both received medical attention at the hospital. Only then did they find out that their carbon monoxide levels had been dangerously close to lethal. All are now fine. Ballew and bandmate, Curtis Hagy, want to encourage people to be alert to the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially during the winter, when people are using fireplaces and heaters.

Warner Bros. Records has announced that renowned record producer and music-publishing executive Mark Bright has been named president and CEO of Word Entertainment. Bright is a veteran record producer who has worked with multi-platinum artists like Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, Billy Ray Cyrus and Mark Schultz. He succeeds Word's CEO Jim Van Hook, who retired after more than 30 successful years in the faith-based music industry.


Entertainment notes compiled from artist interviews and press releases.